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Film Studies: Understanding Public Performance Rights

Whether you are a film student looking for research materials or just want to sit back and enjoy a classic movie, this guide will help direct you to resources to make your search easier.

Public Performance Rights Overview

What are Public Performance Rights?

Public Performance Rights (PPR) are the legal rights to publicly show a film or video (media). Normally the media producer or distributor manages these rights. The rights-holder (or their designate) can assign PPR to others through a Public Performance License. It is considered a public performance if any of the following are true:

  • The screening is open to the public
  • The screening is in a public space (dorm lounge, library, auditorium, etc.)
  • Access is not restricted 
  • Persons attending are outside normal constituency (visitors to campus)

Showing media, whether borrowed from the library or rented, purchased, or streamed, to groups outside of the classroom may be illegal, and may place the University at legal risk.

When are Public Performance Rights Required? 

PPR are required if you are screening copyrighted media to audiences for purposes that fall outside regular curriculum-based instruction. These include:

  • Student organization events (e.g. movie night)
  • Meetings, programs, or other events on campus
  • Film series or festivals

PPR are not required for:

Meyer Library Resources and PPR

Since Meyer Library acquires media to support the curriculum at Missouri State University, and face-to-face teaching is exempt from PPR, the library does not typically secure PPR with video purchases due to higher associated costs. Many of the educational films in the library’s DVD collection have PPR; most feature films do not. In the case where a film does not have public performance rights, it is the responsibility of the user, not the library, to investigate the procurement of PPR. The library will provide reasonable assistance in identifying the rights-holder of a film.